A while back I became super interested in the cookie decorating world. I had one of those moments where you just search endlessly on the internet for as much information as you can find…for days. It’s just so amazing how some people can create such perfect looking decorated cookies! I decided that I wanted to dip my feet into the art form to see how I would do. Well, for any of you that are familiar with cookie decorating, you know that you need a mass amount of special tools- pipings bags, piping tips, meringue powder, food gel paste, cookie cutters, etc. I didn’t have any of that. It took my quite a long time to acquire it all being located in Germany and all. Even after finally getting all the equipment it took me a couple weeks to actually put together a session. I really wanted to concentrate and not blow through it. I knew that was going to take a lengthy, dedicated period of time. Those are hard to find you know. As you can see, I recently had the opportunity and decided to do some Easter Cookies in celebration of the upcoming Holiday. Honestly, it was a lot more tedious and difficult than I thought it was going to be. I definitely have a new respect for those cookie decorators out there.
This was my very first time doing anything like this so I not only wanted to share with you a great sugar cookie recipe, but my experience. The immediate things that I learned, if you will. It didn’t take me long to realize that you need to be incredibly organized. Once you start decorating, you have to be fairly quick, and if you’re frostings and tools aren’t organized you’ll not only make a mess, but you’ll be completely overwhelmed. It’s the key to establishing a good work flow. I was fairly organized, but next time I am definitely going to plan my designs out better. I kind of just winged it with this batch, decorating each randomly as I came to it. I just haven’t had enough experience to look at a cookie shape and say “you are going to have pink trim, blue dots, and yellow stripes”. Not there yet. So I recommend you try and think about that in advance. Another universal truth I stumbled upon is the way you “flood” a cookie (fill in the outlined area with icing). I was SO nervous that I wasn’t going to have enough royal icing to decorate a whole batch of cookies that I started off really sparingly with my pink cookies. I had PLENTY of frosting leftover that I now know that I don’t have to do that. If you look closely at the photographs you can kind of see what I am talking about- the pink cookies look much flatter and rough than the yellow and purple which look beautifully smooth. So next time I will be sure to use plenty of icing to flood each in order to achieve the appealing raised, rounded surface. And lastly, I’ve just got to mention- piping the outline neatly is HARD! Seriously… My. Outlines. Were. Terrible. Ugh, gosh, they were so bad, I can’t even explain! They just had all these defective bumps and angles, I just couldn’t make a smooth outline to save my life. I was pretty upset about it at the time. Once I flooded the outline though, I noticed that you could barely even tell how horrible of a job I did. Talk about a saving grace : ) I tried outlining with a #3 and a #2 tip (tiny round tips), thinking the larger #3 would be easier and look better. Not true. The #2 was a bit easier and it looked a TON better. You can tell the difference in my photos- the pink use the larger #3 tip, purple and yellow use the smaller #2.
Since cookie decorating is an art form, just like cake decorating, it takes LOTS of practice. You can’t just pick it up one day and be great at it (and if you can, I am completely jealous…). Getting those meticulously designed, beautifully smooth cookies is quite a skill and just like with anything else it needs to be honed. I sometimes get down on myself because I don’t do very well with decorating cakes and cookies. I have to take a step back and give myself a break when I do that- those people that are great, they do that stuff multiple times a week, I decorate things maybe 5 times over an entire year. No wonder I’m not doing well, I’m not getting any practice. So if you’re like me and feel that way, just start thinking about it like that. If you want to get better, you have to make the time to do so. If you can’t commit yourself to learning the art, then don’t beat yourself up about not being great at it!
I wish that I could give you a great run down and tutorial of exactly how to decorate cookies with royal icing, but I’m just not there yet. I’m still learning myself, so it would be fair for me to try to teach you. There are SO many resources online though that have vast amounts of information on the subject. Here is a short list-
Bake @ 350- Royal Icing Recipe and Tips
- 3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 2 sticks (salted) butter, cold & cut into chunks
- 1 egg
- ¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp pure almond extract
- Preheat oven to 350. Line sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mat.
- Sift the flour and baking powder then whisk to combine; set aside. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and extracts and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.
- The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.
- Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Adapted from Bake @ 350